Periodically throughout the spring, I have received news releases announcing that a pair of athletes from one of the Big Ten member institutions had received something called the Big Ten Medal of Honor. Because I write for blogs covering the University of Maryland, I ignored all the releases about the student athletes from Nebraska, Purdue, Iowa and so on. Yesterday, my inbox dinged with the relevant news. The winners of the Big Ten Medal of Honor for Maryland are Malina Howard and Varun Ram.
What is the Medal of Honor?
According to the Big Ten, the Medal of Honor "was established in 1915 and was the first award in intercollegiate athletics to demonstrate support for the educational emphasis placed on athletics. The Big Ten Medal of Honor is awarded to one male and one female student-athlete from the graduating class of each member institution who has demonstrated excellence on and off the field throughout their college career."
The 2015 Awards start the second century of this tradition. We should note, however, that only male athletes won the award for the first 67 yeas of its existence. The conference first included female athletes in 1982. With the expansion of the conference to 14 teams, this first year of the second century represents the largest number of student athletes honored in any single year. Collectively, nearly 9,500 students represented B1G institutions in NCAA competition in 2015 so the 28 honorees are part of an very select group.
Malina Howard is certainly a stellar example of a true student athlete. As a member of the women's basketball team, Howard, who started all 37 games for Maryland in the 2014-15 season, is one of only eight Terrapins women to play in back to back Final Fours. She averaged nearly six points and 4.5 rebounds per game for the 2015 Terps who also won a program record 28 consecutive games.
Athletically only a junior, Howard will graduate in May of 2015 with a degree in kinesiology with a 3.798 grade point average. Earlier this year, Howard won the Elite 89 Award which is given to the student athlete with the highest grade point average on a Final Four team for each of the 89 championships sponsored by the NCAA in all three divisions. The Twinsburg, Ohio native also received a Sportsmanship Award from the Big Ten and was named to the All-Big Ten Academic Team.
Varun Ram is among that rare class of student athletes in a revenue sport for whom the college experience is focused as much (or perhaps more) on the student experience as it is on the athlete experience. Ram, who transferred to Maryland from Trinity College in Connecticut, is a physiology and neurobiology major. He carries a 3.952 grade point average and has been named to the Dean's List and Scholar-Athlete Honor Roll five times in addition to earning numerous all-conference academic honors.
After sitting out a transfer year, he played in 16 games in the 2013-14 season earning his first Maryland start against George Washington on December eighth. Playing mostly a reserve role, Ram's career high three steals in Maryland's game against Iowa likely set him up for his most memorable on court moment as a Terp when he knocked the ball loose on Valparaiso's final shot attempt Maryland's first round NCAA Tournament win that started here:
But the 5'7" senior from Clarksville, MD has some hops, too:
Said Maryland Director of Athletics Kevin Anderson, "Malina and Varun are two shining examples of the outstanding student-athletes we have at the University of Maryland. We are incredibly proud of their accomplishments both on the court and in the classroom and are thrilled that Malina and Varun will be continuing their education at Maryland following graduation in May."